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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jul 23, 2011 3:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle

"Why were many things better [in America] with less technology?"

20th century American service jobs were not "flipping burgers" jobs. Many good American jobs were available servicing valuable equipment and products that were manufactured in America. Techs like myself started their careers out in the field. I began mine by taping GD shows in 1973. By 1978 I earned a 2-year AA degree in electronics. I worked several years in high tech manufacturing. Many of us moved on and had rewarding careers working out in the field as valuable "trained and certified" service engineers. Others finished getting their Engineering Degrees and 4 years of college. Design Engineers did very well.

This Ampex VPR-3 video head replacement YouTube clip gives us a quick glimpse back into the Ampex electronics world. The 7-minute video shows an Ampex VPR-3 video tape deck having playback problems due to a bad video head. It was the AST (Automatic Scan Tracking) video head. Some techs called it the slo-mo head, some called it the DT head (Sony's head). The technician replaces the AST head and then sets up the electronics for an alignment. First he adjusts the RF playback levels, then he adjusts the AST servo electronics. This procedure optimizes the electronics settings for the new AST head. I used to get paid excellent sums of money doing this and other service work in electronics for TV, Cable, and video production systems.
20th century service tech making very good wages
21st century service tech making dirt wages

I will never forget where I was and what we were doing on the day the first space shuttle launched on 12 April 1981. Me and most of the electronic techs from the Ampex 2nd shift production line were partying together in Colorado Springs to celebrate this historic event.

This post was modified by dead-head_Monte on 2011-07-23 22:11:48

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jul 23, 2011 8:04pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

Where Do GOOD Service Jobs come from?

Typically, each "Ampex design engineer" employee would have created 7 or more "additional Ampex jobs" and employees. These are jobs such as manufacturing and sustaining engineers, technicians, assemblers, QA inspectors, machinists, supervisors, etc. These were good paying manufacturing jobs. They paid much better than "flipping burgers" jobs. Outsourcing American jobs and manufacturing is 100% contrary to this FACT. American inventors, developers, designers, and innovators are vanishing. The good American jobs that accompany them are also vanishing. Steve Jobs and Apple are ANTI-American TRAITORS! The best example I can present here is my own experience. Because I worked 5 or 6 years for Ampex, I had a rewarding career for 25 more years - after leaving Ampex in 1984.

Ampex invents the video tape recorder in 1955

Here's a brief description of the events that led to the development of the videotape recorder. The URL hyperlinks in this article link to historic archival photos. As you will come to appreciate from reading this tutorial, the development of a practical videotape machine was no trivial task. The videotape machine represents perhaps, the most amazing combination of mechanical and electronic engineering that you will ever find in one device. Indeed, technology developed for the videotape machine also is fundamental to the now ubiquitous computer disk drive as well.

The first stirrings that led to a practical videotape machine happened in 1951. This is not to say that there was considerable interest in the concept of recording TV pictures before that. Indeed, ever since Jack Mullin had demonstrated practical magnetic audio recording in this country (Using two tape recorders captured from the Germans during World War II), there was also an interest in recording television pictures. (You will read later why this was so problematic.) In any case, the audio tape recorder had given life to a post-war Ampex Corporation, who was looking for a product to manufacture after it's government contract to manufacture radar components had been canceled.

Up to this point, experimentation with video recording was proceeding along two similar tracks. Both used conventional linear tape technology. One variant employed very high speeds and a single head. The other variant used somewhat slower speeds, but used multiple heads to record slices of the vast video bandwidth on separate tracks. Both approaches were plagued with severe problems that remain unsolved to this day. Two outstanding examples of this early work are photographed: the 12 channel Bing Crosby VTR; and the British VERA format.

Bing Crosby And The Ampex Tape Recorder

It was in 1951 that a different approach of using a rapidly rotating head writing tracks on a relatively slow moving tape had been suggested to some people at Ampex by Marvin Camras of Armour Research. The idea looked like it had some promise of overcoming the problems associated with very high tape speeds. So, Ampex executives appropriated a small sum of money to investigate the rotating head approach. To head up the project, a television engineer by the name of Charlie Ginsburg was hired by Ampex. He remained the project leader throughout the entire project. The is the first of 'The Six' men principally responsible for the development of the videotape recorder. It was now December of 1951.

During these early days, Ginsburg had the fortune of meeting a fine young engineer named Ray Dolby (Number 2 of 'The Six'). (Yes, this is the same Ray Dolby of Dolby Noise Reduction, and Dolby Theater Sound fame.) Dolby contributed to the Videotape project in many different ways during the ensuing years. Unfortunately, Ray Dolby's quitting school (He was only 19 at the time) and joining Ampex promptly got him drafted into the Military.

Nevertheless, work on the Videotape machine proceeded. By October 1952, a working system was demonstrated. It employed 3 headed Arcuate scan, and AM video modulation. Although the pictures were hardly recognizable, they were pictures, and Ampex management continued funding the research. Shortly thereafter a second Arcuate scan machine was built, which later became known as the Mark I. This machine used a 4 headed Arcuate scan, and had it's drive motors were referenced to the AC line. A new team member, Shelby Henderson (Number 3 of 'The Six') joined on about this time as the team's modelmaker. One of his first contributions to the project was a 'female guide' to back up the tape behind the rotating head.

In June of 1953, the Videotape project was set aside while another major project was undertaken. (I believe it was the Todd-AO theater sound system) Although some work was done on the project during this time, very little was really done until August of 1954. Even so, some 'back room' efforts led to major progress in overcoming some of the problems of the videotape recorder. Enough progress was made, that a request for some quality time to work on the project was made. This was granted in August of 1954. The first task at hand was to try to improve the motor control system. This task was shared by Charlie Ginsburg, and a new team member named Charles Anderson (The fourth of 'The Six'). The results were very encouraging, and a demonstration of the Mark I to management resulted in a full go-ahead on September 1, 1954. The race was now on in earnest.

Shortly thereafter, the arcuate scan system was abandoned in favor of the transverse scan system. (The various scanning systems are explained in detail later in the tutorial.) An improved AGC system was developed for the AM video. It was also around this time that two other key members of the project came on board to join Ginsburg, Anderson, and Henderson. These new members were Fred Pfost and Alex Maxey. (#5 and #6 of 'The Six.)

The first problem encountered with transverse scan was keeping the video heads in one piece. There were at that time, only six handmade heads in existence. These heads had been used in the arcuate scan mark I. They also worked with the transverse scan head system. However, no new head designs would work in the new scanner; they kept flying apart. This would be a problem for a number of months to come. Still, armed with the new scan system and the old heads, a demonstration was made of transverse scan in December of 1954.

Although the new scanning system showed much promise, the AM AGC continued to be a major problem. (An early AM picture) No easy fixes were to be had. It was at this time that Charles Anderson proposed using vestigial sideband FM instead of AM. This was tried, and the results were extremely encouraging. It was also at this time that Ray Dolby finally got out of the military. Not wishing to repeat the mistake he has made 3 years earlier, he returned to college and worked part-time for Ampex. He simplified the FM electronics for the video signal system, which also resulted in a considerable performance improvement. (Anderson's original design was like an FM superhetrodyne radio. Dolby's design did all the processing at baseband.) First FM pictures. An early March 1955 demonstration to Ampex executives was very convincing. A goal was set at that time to have a commercial product ready in a year. (No, Time-To-Market is not a new concept!) The VTR breadboard at that time was known as the Mark II.

Another major breakthrough made about that time involved correcting timing errors in the video that resulted from the segmented scanning approach. Alex Maxey conducted a series of after-hours experiments and determined means by which these problems might be solved. Out of this experimentation arose the idea of moving the female guide shoe in and out to correct this problem. This method has some other unexpected positive benefits, and eventually became the accepted means of correcting these timing problems.

Fred Pfost worked during this time on solving the problems with the construction of the video heads. He solved many of the problems associated with the construction of the heads, and came up with a sandwich design that was easily reproducible.

As 1955 wore on, improvement were made in the signal system electronics, slowly extending the usable video bandwidth and improving the signal-to-noise ratio. Improvements in the servo system made the picture stable enough that it could be reproduced on any TV monitor. It was not long before good pictures from this prototype machine, the Mark III, were commonplace.

The Mark III was an ugly machine. It consisted of a crude wooden cabinet, with a top plate, and electronic chassis scattered here and there. There were also two partially-loaded racks of electronics associated with the machine. In late 1955, Ampex management suggested that the machine could benefit from a makeover. After all, this machine was going to be extremely expensive. So, Charles Anderson developed the Mark IV videotape recorder, wideotape recorder, with it's console and compact, internal electronics. It was also decided at this time to set a goal of doing a demonstration of the videotape machine at the April 1956 NARTB (Now NAB) convention.

In February of 1956, a demonstration of the videotape machine was made to about 30 Ampex people. The demonstration was so successful that the VTR team was given a standing ovation with 'Clapping and shouting that shook the building'! Over the next few weeks, leading up to the convention, a number of top broadcast engineering people were shown the videotape machine. The interest shown by these people during their visits convinced the team to finish the Mark IV, and send it to the NARTB show.

The Mark IV was finished, and several improvements were made. Work continued nights and weekends to prepare for the big show. Finally, the machine was broken down into many pieces and shipped to Chicago. Meanwhile, the Mark III was given a cosmetic facelift, and prepared for demonstration to the press in Redwood City, CA. (Home of Ampex). This demonstration was to take place the day the NARTB convention opened in Chicago. Unfortunately, this machine developed severe problems just before the NARTB team left for Chicago. A team (Headed by Ray Dolby, I believe) was left behind to fix the Mark III, and the rest headed for Chicago.

When everything was put back together in Chicago, the Mark IV was making the best pictures it had ever made. However, some CBS engineers said, predictably, 'It isn't good enough'. So, two feverish days of tweaking followed, and the performance goals were met. This was also aided by the delivery of some tape samples that were the best yet seen. (The development of these tape samples by 3M is another interesting story!) Meanwhile, the Redwood City crew solved the problems with the Mark III. All was now ready for the demonstration, both to take place on the opening Saturday of the NARTB convention.

The demonstrations, first for the CBS affiliates meeting, and then the general convention delegates was a bombshell. The Redwood City demonstration was a complete success as well. As a result, Ampex was flooded with orders. It is said that some orders were even taken on napkins! In any case, the videotape machine was an instant, astounding success!

The first production machines to be built were called the VRX-1000. Sixteen of these were handmade while a large assortment of technical bugs were worked out of the machines. One of the real problems during that time was finding suitable tape for video recording. Much effort was put into developing test procedures to determine if a given type of tape was acceptable. (Tape quality continues to be a problem, even to this day.) Another problem was manufacturing video heads in reasonable quantities. Last, but not least, everything had to be made completely reliable. (Alexander Poniatoff, founder of Ampex, told his engineering people 'I want all our products to be as reliable as refrigerators'. He made them design reliability into everything Ampex made. The result is audio recorders built in the '50's are still in routine use today.) Many people worked 30 hour days during that time to make sure the new videotape recorder was a product living up to Ampex's reputation.

Here is a picture of Charlie Anderson taken in late September 2000. Here is a picture of the Six man team responsible for the first practical VTR, posing with the Mark IV. L to R:

Fred Pfost, Shelby Henderson, Ray Dolby, Alex Maxey, Charlie Ginsburg, Charlie Anderson

The first on-air use of videotape occurred on November 30, 1956. The event happened at CBS Television City in Hollywood, CA. The videotape recorder was used to tape delay 'Douglas Edwards and the News' three hours for the West Coast airing of the show. (Screen shot) Other networks quickly followed suit. Incidentally, the VTR used for this broadcast is now in the Smithsonian institution.

The production version of the XVR-1000 became the VR-1000. Several variants of this machine were developed, and it had a long production life.

This history would not be complete without mentioning the parallel development of the helical scan format. Here is Alex Maxey working on an early helical scan VTR prototype. Although timebase error problems with the format could not easily be solved, Ampex managed to produce a workable machine in 1961. This machine, the VR8000, never saw it to production. However, two of these machines did make it into the hands of customers. The frame of the VR8000 became the mechanical basis for the VR1100 quad machine, and the later VR2000 and VR1200. The next helical machine I know of is the VR1500, a very early attempt at a consumer VTR. It appeared in the 1963 Neimann-Marcus Christmas Catalog. It had a price tag of only $30,000!

Videotape Systems Theory (continued) - by Tim Stoffel, October 2004 (1st draft Feb 1996)

"We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life, a simple life, a good life - and think about moving the whole human race ahead a step." -- Jerry Garcia, 1967

Owsley "The Bear" Stanley & Jerry Garcia

Bear says to Jer, "Our recording engineer pal, Ron Wickersham left his audio design engineer gig at Ampex recently. Is he doing anything besides working gigs at Pacific Recording Studio? I've been busy developing GD's sound system, and I've got my hands full with you and the band. You know, GD would sound incredible if we had people making better sound systems and electric guitars. I brought Rick Turner, a maker of acoustic guitars together with Ron. I suggested they form Alembic to work on sound systems and to make fine modern guitars and basses. We're gonna build a Wall of Sound!"
Ron Wickersham
Wall of Sound

Steve Parish, Ram Rod, Harry Popick, Betty Cantor-Jackson, Bill 'Kidd' Candelario & John Hagen

Our Vault is full of Ampex recordings. Thanks to American Workers!


We're extremely proud of our Europe '72 SBD recordings. Enjoy these Ampex reels:

proud as a peacock, Bob Matthews poses w/ Ampex gear in 1977 at Grateful Dead's recording studio

GD's recording studio patch field bay is shown on the far left of the photo below
dual Ampex MM-1100 16-track decks are shown with an Ampex AG-440 2-track deck nested between them
the audio DAs (distribution amplifiers) and their DA patch panel are to the right of the studio's patch bay
the remote control console for Grateful Dead's tape recorders is in the center foreground (Bob's cockpit)

proud as a peacock, Monte Barry poses w/ Ampex gear in 1982 at USA Cable Network's broadcast studio

"You're Scumbags! BLOW ME! American Workers are Losers!
I HATE The Grateful Dead! Ampex sucks! Bing Crosby blows!"
-- Steve Jobs
Chairman, Apple Corporation, 2011

This post was modified by dead-head_Monte on 2011-07-24 03:04:04

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Poster: Captain Audio Date: Aug 3, 2011 6:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

Interesting thoughts. However, please notice that the tape machines shown in the picture of the Dead's studio were not made by Ampex. All are A-80s (2 24tks and a two track) and were made by Willi Studer AG in Switzerland. So much for your point about American technology.

By the way, the console was manufactured by Rupert Neve in the UK...

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Aug 5, 2011 6:48am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

Perhaps those 16-tracks are Studer decks. If I made a mistake, I apologize. I've made other mistakes before. We know that GD recorded the entire Europe '72 tour on an Alembic-modified Ampex 16-track tape recorder at 15 ips. Many Betty Boards tapes were recorded on Ampex tape recorders. In their early years GD taped tons of shows and some album(s) on Ampex tape decks. I've only seen a few pictures showing GD and the crew with taping equipment. I tried to describe what was in these photos since no one else was doing this.

My point about American technology is about losing American technology AND American jobs in the 21st century. It's outsourcing more American jobs as fast as is possible. It's about the downfall of the American Worker, and the American Economy being ruined.

This 2.5 minute news clip from Aug 5, 2011 shows American unemployed and under-employed workers and their families in Indiana surviving on donations they get from Food Pantries.

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Poster: NoiseCollector Date: Aug 5, 2011 8:06am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

If you want them to sound like studer tapes run them through this:

With these:;order=timestamp&sort=DESC&page=1

Or you could go to the Wisconsin state fair and get beat down by angry investors who lost money this week.

This post was modified by NoiseCollector on 2011-08-05 15:06:32

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Poster: NoiseCollector Date: Aug 5, 2011 8:08am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

there is no friggin semicolon in that link.... the html on this place annoys me to no end...

All sorts of tape impulse responses so you can make a pristine digital recording sound like it was recorded on a studer.... or a cassette for that matter....

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Aug 5, 2011 8:23am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

Noise Collector, I've always admired your excellent technical paper and essay you posted here 3½ years ago... "The Art of Noise Collecting: Where to Find Free Sounds for Audio Production"

You've made it into Monte's Taper Handbook via this discussion. Thanks!

I should have put your essay in my handbook a long time ago. Thanks for contributing this Audio essay!

Captain Audio said to me, "So much for your point about American technology." Why not comment further on that? This thread is about RIP Space Shuttle.

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Aug 5, 2011 10:58am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs

Further comment...


Stock Markets on Wall Street, and in Stock Markets around The World, the past 10 days of trading have wiped out all of the Stock Market gains made in 2011. Yesterday, stock markets all around the world went down 5%. We're back into volatility mode. Who knows what's up? Not knowing what's up is the worst possible situation any family could be facing.

Stocks nose-dive as economy fears spread around the globe

This post was modified by dead-head_Monte on 2011-08-05 17:58:08

Attachment: S_P-500_chart_Aug-2011.jpg

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Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Sep 22, 2011 8:17am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: RIP Space Shuttle, American innovation, and good service jobs


Re: We're back into volatility mode. Who knows what's up? Not knowing what's up is the worst possible situation any family could be facing.

We've been in volatility mode for the past six weeks. Here's the background reporting you need to know. This is the first of a four-part investigation into a world of greed and recklessness that led to financial collapse.

Meltdown - The men who crashed the world

In the first episode of Meltdown, we hear about four men who brought down the global economy: a billionaire mortgage-seller who fooled millions; a high-rolling banker with a fatal weakness; a ferocious Wall Street predator; and the power behind the throne.

The crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing more than 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the edge of insolvency. Wall Street turned back the clock to 1929.

But how did it all go so wrong?

Lack of government regulation; easy lending in the US housing market meant anyone could qualify for a home loan with no government regulations in place.

Also, London was competing with New York as the banking capital of the world. Gordon Brown, the British finance minister at the time, introduced 'light touch regulation' - giving bankers a free hand in the marketplace.

All this, and with key players making the wrong financial decisions, saw the world's biggest financial collapse.

The tide of deregulation; the drumbeat of warnings - Video Timeline

• Thursday September 22, 2011, 10:05 am

50.jpgNEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks plummeted Thursday morning after the Federal Reserve indicated that the U.S. economic slump could last for years.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Fed announced a portfolio rebalancing designed to drive down interest rates on long-term government debt. The move was largely expected, but stock markets began a late-day slide that carried over to overseas markets on Thursday.

At 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, on Thursday, The Dow Jones industrial average fell 371 points, or 3.3 percent, to 10,753. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 37, or 3.2 percent, to 1,129. The Nasdaq composite fell 81, or 3.2 percent, to 2,457.